UPDATE: Will Cromer's name corrected in text.
Those of you following along at home know that Haslam's war on Planned Parenthood has been confusing since at least last week. An audience member at UT Martin attempted to get Will Cromer, Haslam's policy director, to explain what defunding Planned Parenthood exactly meant. Does Haslam, for instance, not support the non-abortion services Planned Parenthood provides?
Cromer's answer? (The first question the person asked was why Haslam himself couldn't be there.)
Second question, as you mentioned, may be something that we all don’t necessarily agree on but he doesn’t agree with state funding for Planned Parenthood. Um, you characterize it as if he doesn’t want to help people which obviously it isn’t the case. It’s just this particular organization, at the core of what they do, has to do with abortions and he’s 100% pro-life and we may not all agree on that in the room but Mayor Haslam is 100% pro-life and he doesn’t agree with funding an organization that that’s a big part of what they do.
Now, this is like me saying, "I'm going to kick you as hard as I can right in the junk," and you saying, "Hell, no, I don't want you to do that," and then me saying, "Well, we're just going to have to agree to disagree." Some things you can't just agree to disagree about.
And Haslam's position raises some questions. So I asked them. As you might imagine, it went poorly.
The official word out of the governor's camp is, "The Mayor's position is well-stated."
In what world? Lord almighty, I laughed so hard when I got that email I thought Diet Dr Pepper was going to come out of my nose.
Here's the deal. Haslam has now staked two claims: He thinks further government cuts are necessary, and he doesn't want to use state funding for Planned Parenthood.
That leaves Haslam with a limited number of options.
Will he set aside his desire to further shrink the state government in order to expand the Health Department so that the Health Department can administer the family planning programs itself that Planned Parenthood now administers for the state? If so, how will he respond to critics when he's rightfully accused of expanding the size of the government when he said that he wouldn't?
But check out that phrasing — "he doesn't agree with state funding." That leaves Haslam with a loophole so large you could drive a truck through it. Much of the money in our state budget comes from the federal government. The state just acts as a funnel, pointing it where it needs to go. Is Haslam actually signaling that he intends to cut funding that comes directly from the state, but replace it with federal money because he can't actually afford to bring those programs in-house and he doesn't want to lose those programs?
If that's the case, he's going to have some mighty pissed-off anti-abortion folks, who hear him say that he's going to cut state funding to Planned Parenthood and expect that's going to end the state's relationship with Planned Parenthood, not just start a game of shift-the-money.
The third option is that those programs are neither going to be administered by the state nor by Planned Parenthood. In other words, Haslam plans to cut them, but he knows it would be so incredibly unpopular to do so that he's hiding his intentions behind his public alarm about Planned Parenthood.
Voters deserve to know what a gubernatorial candidate plans on doing when his priorities come into conflict with each other. You can be all for small government and understand that certain departments aren't large enough. You can disagree with one service provided by an entity and still see how that entity is necessary for the health of the state. Or you could decide that there are certain health-care programs you don't want the state to be involved in.
But voters have the right to know what you intend to do. The whole hard nuanced truth, not the catchy sound-bite.